Naga Peace pact must be win-win deal, will respect rule of law: NNPG Chief Kitovi Zhimomi

One participant asked Kitovi, “What’s the difference between your (NNPG) moral and political vision for Nagas and what existed with other Naga leaders and groups?”
Kitovi Zhimomi

New Delhi/Dimapur, Feb 24 : At a critical stage of Naga peace talks and optimistic of a final pact soon, Naga National Political Group (NNPG) leader, N. Kitovi Zhimomi told a group of youth that the new accord should offer “win-win situation for all” and that “the rule of law” must be upheld.

“We ought to have the rule of law. People have to have rules that apply equally to everyone. One cannot dream of Nagaland as a state where we pursue — my way or the highway,” Kitovi told a group of youth during a virtual video conference.

A video discussion was organised recently by a group of Naga youths in the South Asian region to debate on the theme ‘The Conquest and Morality of Nagaism’.

The 64-year-old former rebel leader Zhimomi, a noted Sema Naga and NNPG Convener, was the chief speaker fielding questions from Nagas in Nagaland and also outside, sources said.

“The NNPG. and former Nagaland Governor, R.N.Ravi negotiated on the principle that politics is an art of possibilities, and so the focus was to resolve the Indo-Naga political problems. We should aim for a win-win
situation for both sides in the first place,” he told the questioners.

Among a few queries, he was also asked, “What makes you hopeful? Who do you see as the main gainers from the Peace process?”

Kitovi’s response was candid, “I think everyone should gain. That’s the whole purpose of the peace process. The Nagas should be happy to live in peace, harmony and development. Let Prime Minister Narendra Modi also be happy that a major conflict has ended during his term. This is a new era for Nagas and the world community, we must show vision and statesmanship. Everyone in the society and in the Naga region and beyond must be a beneficiary of our peace process and the final agreement.”

From NNPG’s side, he said some issues were very emotive and sensitive.

“But to resolve the problems, we have to respect the rule of law and constitutional limitations. We told Governor Ravi initially, we will cooperate with you when it comes to your legal and constitutional positions, but the Government of India should respect the uniqueness of our case and be ready to be flexible.”

At the end, he told the youth gathering (virtually), “I think things went on in good spirits and we will have a positive outcome.”

To a question on the Governor’s role as the negotiator, Kitovi said, “I agreed to participate in Wednesday’s discussions with you all when I came to know about the theme — the ‘Morality of Nagaism’. As Christians, the issue of Nagaism and the morality is very important. Communism and Christianity cannot go together for long. Many Indian officials could not differentiate between the two.”

“But R.N. Ravi was a real exception. He is close to the Naga values as an individual. He is genuine and honest. Corruption left him disturbed. So, I was not surprised when as the Governor, he spoke against extortion.

This menace of extortion is an extreme form of corruption.”

Asked how would the Peace pact also cater to the welfare and wishes of thousands of Nagas outside ‘Nagaland state’, he said, “Of course, emotional Naga integrity is part of our life. I can tell you there is sufficient room for them as well. Our status paper already mentions some of these issues. One will know better what the NNPG is trying to give to our brothers and sisters outside Nagaland state.”

However, he said as a negotiating player one had to understand the problems and hurdles Indian government or Indian Parliament would face.

“If we want Naga sentiment should be respected, we have to respect their emotion too. The constitutional obligation the Indian parliament has. We cannot create problems. Then you cannot resolve the problem…. That was a big difference in our approach.”

To another question, he said, “R.N. Ravi had the understanding and right perception about the Naga issue essentially because he tried to understand Nagas by the prism of Naga values. Let me tell you, Ravi was
negotiating with us as a representative of the Government of India, but he did not plan to cheat us. I think sincerity was his biggest strength when we took up the negotiations. This made my job easier.”

The NNPG Chief said, “Ravi was sincere and so even when I had strong argument with him on certain issues, personally I never felt bad about him. Now that he is a Governor of a bigger state like Tamil Nadu, I wish him good luck. I knew R.S. Pandey also and now we are talking to new interlocutor A.K. Mishra.”

One participant asked Kitovi, “What’s the difference between your (NNPG) moral and political vision for Nagas and what existed with other Naga leaders and groups?”

Kitovi tried to answer the question too, saying: “I am happy you linked political vision with morality. The Nagaism as I understand is based on Naga values and so the issue of morality is important. The moral vision we in the NNPG pursued was to help one and all. In the west people talk abut crony capitalism. Any society can suffer from crony capitalism. In Nagaland, we promoted certain bad things like tribalism. Where is Nagaism when you indulge in tribalism?”

Another questioner asked, “I am a Naga student now in Bengaluru in Karnataka. What about some personal things, your likes. Who is your favourite writer, what’s your favourite food?”

Kitovi responded with a sense of humour. “Food….of course my Sema food. Rice and good meat. Now I cannot take so much of meat. Once a professor from Bengaluru advised me to read books on famous people like Martin Luther King to Mahatma Gandhi. But my favourite book is ‘Conquest of Happiness’ by Bertrand Russell. You read five books by Russel and in the next six months, you will be a changed person.”

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books, ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Made In India To Make In India: The Meanings Of Moditva| Countercurrents‘)

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